>Lustration: From Prague to Baghdad… to Sussex

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Today sees me heading over the Downs to a research in progress seminar by Roman David of Newcastle University as the Sussex European Institute on lustration in CEE. It’s a fairly well explored area with quite a rich sub-literature on various forms of ‘transitional justice’. Although a Czech, David came to Newcastle via posts in South Africa, Hong Kong and the US and his presentation Hungary, Poland and the CR, it was backlit by strong international concern with international comparison, which I liked – one of his more recent articles is entitled ‘From Prague to Baghdad’.

The presentation itself was a substantive one with two important original aspects: 1) the concept of a ‘lustration system’ with a certain logic and ideal typical form as opposed to a simple empirical run through and comparison of legal and administrative provisions in different countries (one might, he added, in the Q&A, use some more generalizable term, although he didn’t suggest one – ‘transitional justice regime?, ‘transitional justice system’?); and 2) real empirical findings testing the claimed impacts and benefits of lustration, principally increased regime legitimacy (more trust in democratic political institutions) and greater societal trust (benefits well known). Using a clever survey technique based on hypothetical vignettes in the three countries, which also controlled for anti-communism, he found that Czech-style ‘exclusionary models’ and Polish-style ‘inclusion’ models based upon truth telling (confession) about the past had positive effects on both political and social trust. It wasn’t (yet) possible to establish how great a contribution lustration systems might make to the general development of trust and legitimacy in transition societies (possibly rather limited in CEE contexts, I suspected), and there were some question over whether the individually based experimental nature of the survey (individuals responding to hypothetical, if immediately understandable, scenarios) could be scaled up to the social level. On this evidence, however, lustration certainly didn’t do any harm.

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